The New Tattoo Is a Sign

I’ve got a lot on my mind – coming out, new committee work, suicidal thoughts and feelings, a new love interest maybe, a new tattoo and that it means I’m in control of my treatment and my body and who I tell what to, filling out end-of-life paperwork. All in all I’m overwhelmed with me, and a bit hypomanic from the mucinex, and together these things are causing me distress. And anxiety. Lots of anxiety. Just doing the paperwork reminded me that doing such things are a symptom of thinking death is near. And of course I’m having such intense and frequent thoughts of suicide, but in a more abstract way, not a concrete plan, thank goodness.

I just need a place I can be fully me, and be cared for, and share my piled-on thoughts with. Right now that place is church. I’m grateful for the people there that accept and care for me, as well as for the opportunity to do something (social justice team) that speaks to my heart’s burden to make the world a better place. It’s a process of becoming, isn’t it? Becoming a stable person with bipolar, becoming someone who loves in different ways, becoming a leader again. I’m generally someone who pays attention to process, and lets it unfold. But when it comes to me, I’m impatient!

That said, I’m hopeful about entering the process of EMDR to end the suicidal thoughts, and I know it could take a while. I’m hopeful about the person I’ll be and the opportunities I can take when I’m no longer regularly hospitalized and don’t have the terrible thoughts. So I suppose I am paying attention to process because I’m looking to the future and I Will allow it to unfold. And there Will Be a Future. I’m going to keep fighting.

Not So Good Hospital

I really miss the hospital I used to go to in the Chicago suburbs, especially after this last one I stayed at. As you may have expected, I checked myself in as the mixed mood didn’t get better and I got closer and closer to hurting myself as the thoughts bore down on me. I took notes at this hospital because I couldn’t believe how bad my experience was.

In no particular order, and as only a partial list, here are the things that went wrong:

  • Food. The food was cold, poorly cooked, and mostly out of a can.
  • Lack of privacy in the bathrooms. Besides the bathrooms having no doors, the staff doing rounds found a way to always know when I was in there, need to mark down where I was for the every-quarter-hour rounds, and always look in and make eye contact while I was on the toilet or in the shower.
  • Uncaring night staff. The night nurses (7pm-7am) failed to learn any names, even when with you for several nights; and failed to ever do anything that could be “extra work” like look up if you can have melatonin even though I know the dr prescribed it because the day nurse looked it up for me.
  • Not sharing info. I saw a different nurse practitioner every day and no one had read notes about how I was doing from the previous day. Same with nurses between shifts and on different days, case managers, and therapists. I would be asked the same question multiple times a day, by different people, and no one checked the notes anywhere to see what I had said or what the dr had said (who only saw me for a grand total of 5 minutes between 2 visits and never took a history even of medicines I tried).
    Cleanliness questionable. Day room was mopped and trash emptied each shift, but all hand rails were sticky, the bathrooms were only swiffered daily and toilet/sink cleaned every other day, and I never saw the main halls actually cleaned, just swiffered. No wonder everyone upstairs shared a cold, and then it was brought downstairs and everyone went home with one.
    Crickets. In my bathroom, in my room, outside my room, and others had them too.
    Yelling. All day and most of the night from a dementia patient – did I mention I was on the geriatric floor? And others with intellectual disabilities yelled and spoke loud at all times of the day and night.
    Assault on the staff. By a person with dementia. Nothing done about it! She yelled violently at patients regularly too.
    Meds from home not approved. After the main nurse practitioner insisted I get meds from home for meds that were not on the hospital’s formulary (like Advair!) – that would have to be approved by pharmacy and then prescribed inhouse, a process that should take a couple hours, right? – I NEVER got them until I discharged, and then they didn’t give back one of them because they didn’t want me to take it anymore!!!! It was mine, prescribed by my regular doctor!
    ECT brought up. Multiple times, by multiple people. If you read my blog you’ll know why that scared and pissed me off!
    Sleep meds never ready. Even though they were prescribed, and I took what was in the formulary, the nurses never pulled my sleep meds to give me at night, and I would have to wait 20 minutes from the time I asked to the time I got them even when all they were doing was pulling my meds for me.
    Transfer to another hospital didn’t go through. I asked first thing the first morning to go back to the hospital that sent me cuz they had no beds the night before but did after discharges the next day. After getting the runaround about who to talk to, I kept on him all day and he finally came through – though no one else on the staff knew I was leaving. Sigh. Then the other hospital said I’d have to self-pay and that was too much money!
    Diapers. People just left in them for hours. Patients would tell staff about puddles or smells.
    Interns, and bad basic therapy. Every day I was there a therapy intern or a weekend-only staff person led the processing and education group. We would get 2 minutes to say what was on our mind, longer if we had a complaint and then they might jot something down. Super, super basic coping skills like deep breathing or the 10 cognitive distortions (just read off a sheet, not explained) were “taught,” and as someone who knows and practices them, they were not helpfully taught, explained, or they don’t work anyway.
    Intake, middle of the night. Imagine this. Been in a small room with just a couple chairs and a tv for 9 hours. During that time you had an hour-long intake covering everything possible. After several hours, you are told there are no beds and they will transfer you. Then more hours go by. And there is one bed available at a hospital without a good reputation, but legally (to cover their responsibility) they can’t just let you go under family’s care, or let you just sleep in the little room because you have reported intense feelings for suicide. More hours go by. An ambulance finally shows up to transport you to new hospital, sans sirens and lights. New hospital takes their sweet-ass time processing you – 4 more hours until 5:30am – and asks the Same Exact Questions even though your paperwork with all the answers was faxed over hours before you got there. Plus the people were rude!

Despite this and more, I remained model patient, taking meds, participating in groups (just 2 total to fill the day, sigh…), keeping patient, talking to and helping other patients. Just needed a restful place to feel safe and wait for the suicidal thoughts to wane.

Mixed Mood Blues

I’m relying heavily on coping skills such as distraction or grounding myself. But I really want to die. If I can hang on, the mixed mood will pass, which will make the suicidal images less intense (they never go away completely). My psychiatrist increased my antipsychotic med drastically a few days ago. And my therapist is checking in on me daily. There’s a bed waiting for me at the hospital if I need it, but everyone is rooting for me to hang on and cope through this bad spell at home.

Except I really, really want to hurt myself. I don’t have a good plan, and my access to any means has been extremely limited. But the various ways keep pounding through my brain relentlessly. I want something to work – a way out of life or a way to make the feelings and images stop. I’m still just trying to hold on, grasping on the ledge with my fingernails, despite coping skills.

My thoughts are singular. My access to any means is gone. I don’t want to live this way. I don’t want to live at all. And people telling me they care isn’t enough of a reason to stay on this earth. I believe my brain’s lies. I’m not in my right mind. I’m not ok.

On Not Failing

So I’m still struggling with suicidal ideation. I found a recent medical journal article that described what I go through EXactly. “Intrusive Suicidal Imagery” that is unbidden and unwanted, yet can lead to suicidal behaviors just to try to stop the imagery that by being so intrusive leads to hopelessness and then desire to kill oneself. It’s an endless, eternal circle and cycle that I live with. Here’s the article: The first third describes what I go through Every.Stinking.Day. The rest is about possible treatment…

What??? There might be treatment for chronic suicidal thoughts? Yes, EMDR as described in the above article has been successfully used for PTSD and trauma for about 30 years. In the last 10 it has been used successfully with other mental disorders and now finally with bipolar and with chronic suicidal ideation. Something to think about, research more, and see if insurance will cover.

This idea of possible EMDR is one of the really helpful things my therapist told me about last visit. The other is that by even trying just a little bit, just one teensy step, I Am Not Failing. Part of me thinks I fail every time I DON’T go through with suicide – too chicken maybe, since the suffering is so ridiculously unpleasant that I ought to have ended it already, having already gone through every.treatment.possible. Part of me believes doing so many coping skills all the time is failure because surely one of them ought to have worked by now – same with medications and other treatments. I must be doing something wrong.

I complained to my therapist that my brain is trying to kill me. He thinks it is just afraid, and again, that I am not failing. I continue to try: to live, to combat the thoughts or at least try to detach from them. And that struggle has made me who I am. And he thinks that’s a pretty awesome person. Meanwhile, I’m still over here planning my death, but I AM still trying to live. Aren’t there better ways to make someone an awesome person? Asking for a friend…

My Therapist Told Me To Write This

I’m having a hard time telling anyone close to me about my suicidal thoughts. So my therapist told me to write about my feelings. I’m not talking about them because I don’t want them to be real, maybe? I don’t want the ECT to be wearing off? and I don’t want anyone to encourage me to do ECT again? All of that probably.

But I have to remind myself that I’m in a new place with my bipolar and its treatment. I’m in control of my treatment. And if I want to use only medications, then that’s my choice. And if my psychiatrist can’t find medication to help the OCD suicidal thoughts, then I’m back to discussing how to manage them with my therapist and using coping skills.

So here I am using the writing coping skill as instructed by my therapist. I’ve got frequent images of one plan to kill myself in my head, and negative self-talk swirling through my mind. People would be better off without me, type of stuff. I can tell myself my brain is lying, but I still believe the negative self-talk for a while. And when the self-talk and images coincide – as they do regularly – I find myself rehearsing the plan, or starting and then stopping. I really don’t want to die, do I? It’s hard to tell. With all the crap in my head.

I haven’t been able to tell my family, or to contact the Crisis Text Line (741741) or the Natl Hotline (1800-273-TALK). Obviously I contacted my therapist, who told me to write at the minimum. I did tell my church and my online community of friends. After suffering in silence for two days. I’m tired of suffering and I’m scared to tell.

So This Is What My Normal Feels Like

I feel… Balanced. Emotional. In the middle of the two poles, yet still experiencing polar emotions, such as highs where my thoughts zoom and my feelings soar and influence decisions, as well as lows where I again contemplate suicide though never with intent. But I’m never high enough or low enough or there long enough for it to be a mood state.

I haven’t had anything to “talk” about here with my mood so stable. I even had nothing to talk about at my last therapist appointment. Cool changes are going on in my life – new nutritious eating, trying some additional exercise, a new organization membership. All good things, and nothing too particularly about bipolar to write about.

Except maybe this? I’ve talked with a couple people in academia about what I could expect as a PhD student and adjunct or tenured professor so I can decide if I can expect it of myself with this limited brain. I know that “limited brain” sounds like negative self-talk, but in this case it’s self-care because I am learning to accept my limitations and have realistic expectations of myself. A couple of the limitations I have now are that I don’t remember what I read very well (fiction is easier than non-fiction!), and that in conversations or when asked a question I have a hard time coming up with an answer or sorting my thoughts out to sound coherent or finding the right word. So I have a lot to think about to decide if I can do PhD work.

Let’s just enjoy my normal and hope it lasts a while!

Shootings, Suicide, and Spirituality

I am sick to death of shootings that kill or injure ANY number of people, not just the ones that “score” enough deaths to be considered “mass” shootings. My heart hurts. My soul is heavy. My body itches to DO something to ease the enormous pain my country is in.

This is not a new feeling. I can remember the ache as far back as childhood when gang violence in the cities was more likely to make the news than a lone wolf, cis- and young white male with a high-capacity gun was.

Yes, I said it. The problem is not just guns, though background checks and limiting them will make a huge difference. The problem is not just access to mental health treatment, though some of the shooters may not have been in treatment for their mental illness. No. I believe the current problem lies in cis- white, patriarchal supremacy that is replete through American culture.

Unfriend me if you wish. I just needed to say it. Because ever since we had a week full of violence in California, Texas, Ohio, and Illinois, just to name the ones I happened to hear about, I’ve been quiet and hurting, nauseous and aching for the pain, loss, and fear. I’ve also felt more suicidal, more often than usual, with the accompanying feelings of emptiness and lack of purpose.

Then a notorious, alleged criminal is said to have died by suicide (many think not, icymi). Just having suicide in the news is a trigger for suicidality for me. And now he won’t face the justice likely to have come down on him for atrocious acts. Many hearts scream for justice, and I hear them. And death seems a real possibility again.

I talked with my therapist about the suicidal thoughts and was reminded of coping skills that I can use before the feeling gets intense. Going to church is one of those coping skills, something I do to be social, to be encouraged toward ethical action, and to be inspired by the good that IS in the world. Then today, at the beginning of a service to recognize the grief and pain and urge to act because of the shootings, the suicidal feeling came back again. In my last community, I would very often drive to church with hope, only to leave suicidal. That hasn’t happened much in my current community, but here it is, happening again.

I’m using coping skills – such as blogging about my feelings – to ride out the suicidal feelings. But my heart still aches, and my stomach is nauseous.